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With Castro ailing, what's next for Cuba?

The July 31 Cuban news announcement that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was temporarily turning over administrative power in the island nation to his younger brother, Raul, as he underwent surgery to repair an ailment that had caused intestinal bleeding, produced a variety of reactions, but mostly uncertainty. With freedom of information nonexistent in communist Cuba, the news is what the government says it is, and no one outside the ruling circle knows the truth. An August 2 statement released in the name of the elder Castro read: "The important thing is that in the country everything is going perfectly well, and will continue to do so." The cynical might wonder exactly what constitutes "going perfectly well" in the island prison.

Cuban exiles in Miami were initially in a celebratory mood, but wisely held off major public rejoicing until more could be known. Within Cuba, the fear that comes from a leadership vacuum was apparent. "People are very disoriented," a history professor said in a telephone interview. "Dissidents are worried and fear that at any moment there could be a wave of detentions."

Perhaps lost in all the turmoil is some understanding of the nature of communist states, even one headed by such a long-ruling, iconic figure as Fidel Castro. There is a vast difference between an old-fashioned "banana republic" dictator and a tyrant like Castro. Castro has remained in power because he has vast international support.

Fidel Castro, therefore, and by extension his brother, Raul, remain only so long as they serve some useful purpose to the international powers that sustain them. Tyrannical regimes can be brought down quickly, as former Yugoslav despot Slobodan Milosevic learned the hard way. But the longevity of the Castro regime suggests that Fidel is a shade smarter--a team player--and undoubtedly has taught Raul all that he knows. We would look for no radical changes in Cuba, whatever the outcome of Fidel's health.
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Title Annotation:Fidel Castro
Publication:The New American
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:5CUBA
Date:Aug 21, 2006
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